Brown Takes High Road On Massey’s Behavior
Reigning NHRA Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown says former teammate Spencer Massey has apologized for his embarrassing behavior during the season-ending awards banquet that led to his dismissal from Don Schumacher Racing in November.
Additionally, Brown said Massey insisted that he never directed a racial epithet toward him – the first African-American driver to win a major domestic motorsports title – during a widely reported incident at a bar after completion of the official ceremonies.
“The thing about it is, when Spencer and I had conversations back-and-forth to each other, he apologized to me,” Brown said during a national teleconference previewing the 2013 season on Thursday. “He was very affirmative and apologetic, but he told me he didn’t say anything towards me. That was my understanding.”
Brown won a class-leading six races in his Mac Tools dragster en route to a seven-point advantage (2,555-2,548) over DSR teammate/seven-time world champion Tony Schumacher and his U.S. Army dragster in the final Countdown to the Championship standings.
Massey, meanwhile, completed a DSR sweep of the top three positions, 50 points behind Brown following the season-ending Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway on Nov. 11. Despite four wins, Massey’s team headed into the offseason without a sponsor following FRAM/Prestone’s mid-June announcement that it would exit the series at the end of 2012.
Twelve days after the awards banquet, team-owner Don Schumacher terminated Massey via a news release emailed to media from the team’s headquarters in Brownsburg, Ind. The release stated that Massey “is no longer part of Don Schumacher Racing effective immediately” but offered no details. However, Massey’s behavior during and after the ceremonies honoring Brown and fellow 2012 world champions Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Allen
Johnson (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) has been cited for the abrupt firing.
Brown said he first was contacted by Massey on the day after the awards ceremony in Southern California. “It’s just that he basically just apologized,” Brown said. “Things got a little out of control where alcohol was involved. At the end of the day we’re professionals in front of everybody, and that’s what he was apologizing about.
“My deal was, like, you know, I wasn’t there to hear this. We got numerous stories from all different types of stuff that was said and spread and everything else. The only thing I could do is take Spencer’s words for what he said to me. Me and him had a fine relationship this whole last year as teammates, you know what I mean, and that’s what I went off of. I went off of the relationship that me and him had throughout this whole year and the year prior, which was fine.
“After that, like, you know, the other deal, from what Don and everyone else told me – the whole dismissal deal, him leaving our team – at the end of the day it boiled down to sponsorship. There was no sponsorship here. I believe what Spencer told me. I accepted his apology just because it was like our time on the stage of winning the championship. He’s a good kid at the end of the day. He’s a great racer. I have a lot of respect for him as a racer. I hope to race him out there one day soon because he definitely was one of the best racers out there. He almost won the championship the last two years in a row, contended for it. That’s where I stand with Spencer.”
The 24-race 2013 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule will open with the 53rd annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Speedway at Pomona on Feb. 14-17 before heading to Firebird International Raceway on Feb. 22-24 for the 29th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals.
Brown said he most recently spoke with Massey during the PRO Winter Warm-Up at Palm Beach International Raceway in Jupiter, Fla., last month. Massey said in the Jan. 25 issue of “National Dragster” that he and friends are trying to secure a ride but that he does not currently have the sponsorship or cash to do so. The article stated Massey exited DSR on “amicable terms” with Schumacher despite the circumstances, and would be considered for the third Top Fuel car if he could bring suitable financing.
But Massey, who won the season-opener at Pomona last February, also told “National Dragster” he would not defend his title later this month.
Larry Dixon, a three-time NHRA Top Fuel world champion, recently told “RacinToday.com” that Schumacher presented the same financial terms to him on the team’s third car before he opted to sign with Rapisarda Autosport International for a limited 2013 schedule.
Brown, meanwhile, also backed-up the contention that Massey remained a viable candidate for the third DSR car. “I’ll put my bottom dollar on it,” said Brown, a native of Chesterfield, N.J. “At the end of the day, like he was representing FRAM and Prestone. That was his car he was driving. That car was funded. As long as that car was funded, he would still be here driving, without a doubt.
“At the end of the day, more or less (Massey’s) dismissal is just because it’s a lack of funding. Lost our deal with
FRAM and Prestone. Basically it tore that team down because there was no funding to keep the team going. If FRAM and Prestone were still here today, Spencer would be driving that car at the end of the day plain, simple. It’s one of those deals that we’re dealing with in drag racing, all forms of motorsports, it’s hard to keep all the funding going to keep these race cars going.”
Ironically, Massey opened final eliminations at Pomona by trailering point-leader Brown and his dragster, which broke a fuel line and ignited a cockpit fire. Massey’s title hopes were ended in Round 2 by Brandon Bernstein, who went on to win the event. Massey posted a 45-19 won/loss record in 2012, second only to Brown’s 49-17 overall mark. Brown (six victories), Schumacher (two) and Massey (four) dominated Top Fuel last season using an “open book” policy of sharing compiled data.
Asked about the potential impact of losing that third team this season, Brown said, “It all depends. The thing about it, I know Don. Everybody is saying it’s a third team loss, but he’s still actively trying to make it happen right now. He has a couple good insights. Might not be gone. He’s still working diligently on that to make it happen. If we only have Tony and our car out there, it’s just another great race car that we can look at and another trailer. If you need something, if you mess-up something, if you’re still racing, another team that can come out and help you. You’re definitely going to lose all that viable insight and help. That will be a tough one. But hopefully we don’t have to do that.”
Massey joined DSR on Nov. 29, 2010 as the replacement for veteran Cory McClenathan, reportedly at the insistence of the sponsor’s marketing team. DSR’s signing of Massey ended a one-year hiatus from the NHRA’s Top Fuel ranks for the resident of Fort Worth, Texas. Massey won two national events driving for NHRA legend Don “The Snake” Prudhomme in 2009 en route to a sixth-place point finish. Massey also earned the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award, recognizing the sanctioning body’s top rookie.
Massey was the only NHRA professional rookie to win at least one race in 2009. He posted a 32-21 won/loss record and an average reaction time of 0.054-seconds. But Massey was left without a ride in January 2010, when Prudhomme decided to shut down his team due to a lack of corporate sponsorship. The 2008 IHRA Top Fuel champion in a car fielded by Mitch King, Massey spent the 2010 season competing in IHRA match races and looking for another NHRA nitro ride.
Brown, 36, set the national elapsed time record of 3.70-seconds over the 1,000-foot distance last season working with co-crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald. Massey, 30, exited DSR holding the national speed record in Top Fuel, a 1,000-foot run at 332.18 mph. Brown suggested that Massey still fits the mold for Schumacher, a former Funny Car driver who starred on the match-race and national circuits during the 1960s and 1970s.
“I would describe Don Schumacher like right off the bat is competitive, very competitive,” Brown said. “He’s very, very competitive. He’s got a real strong eagerness to win. That’s the best way to describe Don because he does not like to lose. He gives everything he’s got. You know what I mean? He rubs off on you. There’s no excuse. Eagerness to win and no excuses. The ‘no-excuse’ part is you don’t make up excuses. When something doesn’t go right, you go right back to work. You don’t say, ‘This is why it happened.’ You go back to work to fix why it happened. You get what I mean? That’s what he’s about. He’s a man that wants results. That’s the best way I can describe Don to you.
“He lets the teams actually just like fight amongst themselves. He gives each and every team at this shop everything they need to be successful and compete for championships. He supports us in each and every way. At the end of the day, if you deserve it, you’re going to get it. You see a lot of racers that like to come over here and race for Don because we race that way. There’s no team orders over here. We push each other to another level.”
DSR teammates Jack Beckman and Ron Capps finished 1-2 in the final Funny Car standings last season, with Beckman prevailing by two points (2,610-2,608). Like Brown, Beckman won his first NHRA world title in 2012. DSR also fields Dodge Charger R/T Funny Cars for 2011 world champion Matt Hagan and Johnny Gray. DSR has won 196 NHRA national event titles and 11 world championships.
“I think that’s what you saw between all three of our dragster teams and Funny Car teams last year, where we push each other to another level that really helped us in competing for a championship,” Brown said. “That’s why you saw us finish one, two and three in the (Top Fuel) points.”
– John Sturbin can be reached at email@example.com Comments